A Pennsylvania lawmaker is asking colleagues to support an expansion of the state’s mandate that contractors use the E-Verify system to ensure they only hire legal U.S. residents.
State Representative Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie) this week began circulating a memorandum seeking co-sponsors for his upcoming legislation that would require all public contractors and subcontractors to use the federal government’s E-Verify website. Established in the late nineties and now run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the site lets employers avail themselves of it free of charge. The system cross-references information from workers’ Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 with preexisting government data to determine whether a hire is living in America legally.
In August 2007, DHS began requiring that all companies performing contract work for the federal government check their hires’ residency statuses via E-Verify. There is, however, no federal mandate that state governments enforce the system’s use by any employers. Pennsylvania is one of 22 states that require at least some employers to utilize it.
In 2012, then-Governor Tom Corbett (R) approved the Public Works Employment Verification Act stipulating that E-verify be used for all construction companies working on public projects in Pennsylvania. Seven years later, Mackenzie and State Representative John Galloway (D-Levittown) sponsored and passed a bill, signed by Corbett’s successor Tom Wolf (D), requiring all construction-industry employers to enroll in E-Verify and confirm all their workers’ legal residencies through the system.
Mackenzie’s new measure would mandate that all public contractors and subcontractors utilize E-Verify.
“The federal E-Verify system is a convenient way for employers to ensure that their employees do not include individuals not authorized to work in the United States, and its use is already required for construction employers who work on public contracts,” Mackenzie wrote in his memo.
While most Democrats backed Mackenzie’s 2019 bill, new legislation to strengthen immigration enforcement may face an uphill path forward in this session as Democrats now control the state House of Representatives. Members of the minority party historically haven’t frequently managed to get their legislation onto the governor’s desk.
Nationwide participation in E-Verify has grown significantly in recent years. In 2011, 293,000 employers across America checked their hires’ statuses through the program. In 2021, nearly one million did.
Enforcement of E-Verify usage made headlines earlier this week when a spokesperson for Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis indicated that state’s Department of Economic Opportunity revoked licenses from two businesses that did not utilize the system. In 2021, a law went into effect mandating that Florida employers use the site to ensure the employment eligibility of new hires.
“A lot of times, there’ll be businesses throughout the country but including here in Florida that will hire cheap, foreign, illegal labor that undercuts American wages and obviously creates an incentive for people to come in illegally,” DeSantis told reporters in arguing for the Florida legislation’s eventual passage.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].